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Panama Fact Sheet

Geography: Panama occupies the isthmus bridging North and South America. It is situated between Costa Rica and Colombia, with extensive coastline on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The country covers 29,856 square miles (slightly smaller than the state of South Carolina). Panama's interior is covered by dense jungle, while plains and rolling hills dominate the coastal areas. Other than the mountainous area near the Costa Rican border, most of Panama consists of lowlands.

Population: Panama has approximately 3.2 million people, mostly concentrated near the Panama Canal. Panama City has the feel of a cosmopolitan international center and its metro area is home to nearly one-third of the population. On the Caribbean side of the canal, Colon is Panama's second-largest city and a free trade zone since 1953.

Getting to Panama: Tocumen International Airport in Panama City is a major international hub for air travel and the gateway to most visitors to Panama. Cruise ships regularly pass through the Panama Canal, occasionally making port calls on the Caribbean or Pacific side. Overland travelers may enter Panama by taking the Pan-American highway from Costa Rica. However, the is no highway between the canal and the Colombian border.

Getting around in Panama: Panama has a well-developed transportation system near the canal zone. Taxis and tourist buses are comfortable and widely available. The situation goes downhill as you venture further away from the canal, although the country has made significant strides in improving its interior roads.

Visa Requirements: Citizens of the United States, Canada, most Western European countries, and several other nations do not need a visa to enter Panama, although they are required to produce a valid passport at entry. Visitors also need to obtain a tourist card, which is usually available from airlines flying into Panama or from Panamanian embassies. Cruise ship passengers do not need to be concerned about visa or passport requirements. Due to recent changes in U.S. regulations, Americans are required to present their passport in order to re-enter the United States.

Money Matters: The U.S. dollar serves as the currency of Panama, although officially it is called the "balboa" within the country. Both U.S. and Panamanian coins are in circulation. As you might expect in an international financial center, credit cards (especially Visa and Mastercard) and traveler's checks are generally accepted in urban areas and ATM machines are increasingly common.

Food and Drink: Panama is known for its fresh seafood, especially its lobster and shrimp. Panama is also known for the purity of its water. In most of the country, visitors can drink straight from the tap.

Electricity: 110 volts AC (the same as the United States and Canada) is the standard in Panama.

Time Zone: Panama is in the Eastern time zone (like New York, Atlanta, and Miami). It does not observe daylight savings time.

Climate: Panama's tropical climate can be roughly divided into two seasons: wet and dry. The dry season runs from late December to April. The wet season begins in mid-April and typically peaks in October and November. Temperatures vary little throughout the year, although the dry season tends to be less humid. Except for the highlands bordering Costa Rica, high temperatures average 83 F to 90 F and average low temperatures range from 70 F to 75 F.

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